It’s a Sunday afternoon and we’re at the Dum Pukht restaurant in New Delhi with friends from New York. What we thought would be a leisurely culinary experience is turning into a nightmare. “I thought only the French have such long lunches,” John keeps saying in between courses that are served at a nawabi pace. Finally, fed up with the whining, my husband interjects, “In India we are never in a hurry especially when it comes to food and sex. Here the belief is that every morsel should be savoured and every encounter cherished.” I don’t know about the chicken but definitely the mention of sex catches Manhattan man’s attention and he stops fidgeting, momentarily.
The impatience and restlessness is not just a New York syndrome; it’s a sign of the times. Science and technology, money, consumerism and sexual laxity have changed the mindscape of entire generations, transforming lives, especially relationships. The traditional unhurried ways of not just eating but even finding a mate have been abandoned to be replaced by Fast Cupid, Hurry Date, Cheeky Flirt, Dating Bootcamp and several other dating sites leading to addictive dating patterns and increased sexual activity. A friend’s daughter said she and 60 other single people were whisked off to Venice by a travel company for a world record attempt for the highest ever speed-dating event. There on the flight, 35,000 feet above sea level, began the quest for love where she was given an average of three and a half minutes to speed date 21 bachelors. She chose three to date when she landed in Venice. Needless to say nothing came of the trip.
Today the flow of personal information on these dating sites and other social media platforms are fast and furious. Relationships are forged with lightning speed and break up just as quickly. So much is available virtually that there is virtually no reason to meet in real time. Even marriages seem to work on Twitter. A couple who are too busy at work to talk to each other say that social media allows them to stay connected. This ‘Twitter Couple’ posted everything they say to each other and has even gone on to win an award called the Shorty Award for their website.
Worse, a friend of mine who wanted to introduce her daughter to my son told me to look up her daughter’s details on Facebook and see whether I’d be interested! I wonder how she thought I’d take such a proposal seriously.
As the quest for the ideal relationship gets tougher, more and more innovative ways are being explored. Tinder, a dating app, helps you locate girls within a two mile radius complete with a selfie and relationship status who you can zero in on if she takes your fancy. There is also, I’m told a foolproof way to literally sniff out love. Called pheromone parties, these are attended by singles in an effort to find mates by sniffing pieces of clothing. Participants in these parties are told to sleep in t-shirts for three consecutive days which are then collected and placed in individual bags for singles to smell. If a person finds the smell agreeable, he/she is introduced to the owner! As more and more ridiculous fads lead to naught, fed up with junk relationships that are not worthy of even the three minutes spent on them, many people now wonder what is it that’s so thoroughly eroded relationships? Surely, it should be the other way around; with so much information and reach why is there so much angst about not finding love?
One reason may be that virtual identity has taken precedence over the real person; actual behaviour and physical attributes being quite contrary to imagery. So while you may get to know and like the virtual person, meeting the real Monty may come as a shock. You also have 3 GB loads of information available even before the first meeting. “There is information overload. Even before the first meeting you know she likes samosas, Ranbir Kapoor, London, Daniel Da Silva and wants to be a litigation lawyer. More often than not, you also know dress and bra sizes, ex boy-friends, gym habits…everything that a person’s ever done or thought of is available on a public platform leaving very little room for discovery. This also makes for an inability to adapt as you have already decided and described the kind of person you are. How can you take this relationship forward, asks 24-year-old Saurav Ganguly, frustrated with trying to form a private relationship in such a public forum.
The road to romance has always been a treacherous one with no guarantees but 30 years ago the vast majority of people did not just find love; they married and stayed married. What did they have that’s missing these days? Very simply it’s the luxury of time. Leisure that’s come to be equated with decrepitude these days is the key ingredient that’s missing…the time to get to know and understand a person, to explore an entire range of refinements that made love worthwhile, to savour good sex. To love and explore with both body and mind rather than quick physical gratification is what makes love last.
A lot of young people disagree, saying that romance is romance whether it is sexting or sending emoticons. ‘A poem sent over email is just as erotic as one sent by a carrier pigeon; where is the difference?’ There is a difference. Remember the time when communication was tenuous, when you waited and longed for the phone to ring and the postman to arrive? It is the paradox of absence, that only in its presence can you appreciate what you are missing. Modern technology and the constant pinging of the phone may have made communication easier and the world smaller, but it has forever taken away the thrill of the wait, the mystery of love and the anticipation of romance.
So it should come as no surprise that more and more people are beginning to re-examine and evaluate their relationships. And one truism stands out in all this introspection: that sprinting from one person to another, jumping from one bed to another does not cut it. What counts is how much stability, understanding and commitment there is in the relationship.
All of which requires time… a lot of time and attention if love has to blossom.
Slow love, So much better when we take it easy
Slow love, So much better when we take our time
(No, it’s not me… it’s lyrics from a song by Prince).